21 Jump Street leaps over the top

But the buddy-cop slapstick of Tatum and Hill make it fly.

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click to enlarge A COUPLE OF DICKS: Channing Taum and Jonah Hill star in 21 Jump Street. - © 2012 Columbia TriStar Marketing Group, Inc.
© 2012 Columbia TriStar Marketing Group, Inc.
A COUPLE OF DICKS: Channing Taum and Jonah Hill star in 21 Jump Street.

Remember the good old days when you could feel good about letting go and just enjoying a comedy? Well, they're back with 21 Jump Street, a laugh-filled reboot of the late-1980s teen TV drama. Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill are perfect in this over-the-top gut-buster that tips a wry grin just often enough to counter the prevailing idiocy — hilarious though that idiocy generally is.

Channing Tatum stars as Jenko, a former high school jock/asshole who is essentially a handsome dumb guy. (Typecasting, anyone?) Jonah Hill is Schmidt, a former Eminem clone who is essentially a chubby virgin loser. (Typecasting, anyone?) The strong moron and out-of-shape smart guy team up after high school to make it through the police academy, nurturing each other around their respective flaws. Come graduation, they are given a less-than-badass assignment as bike cops, rescuing Frisbees from a pond and yelling at kids at a park to not feed the ducks.

When the chance for some real action comes their way in the form of a gangland drug bust, Jenko blows it by dry-humping the perp instead of reading him the Miranda warning. The ensuing bitch detail is the Jump Street program, described as an undercover unit, “thought up by idiots lacking creativity who will recycle anything and hope no one notices.” Under the command of the angry Captain Dickson (an awesome, shit-talking Ice Cube), Schmidt and Jenko are tasked with infiltrating a high school by posing as students in order to stop the spread of a deadly new wonder drug called H.F.S. (Holy Fucking Shit).

In the modern-day, anti-cool hipster high school, former campus king Jenko finds himself in the unfamiliar role of outcast, while longtime loser Schmidt realizes that he’d have been the most popular kid in school had he just been born 10 years later. As such, Jenko finds himself hanging with the science geeks in AP chemistry, while newly popular Schmidt pushes his partner further away while cozying up to his school play co-star Molly (Brie Larson) and the head drug dealer (Dave Franco). As familiar faces show up and an H.F.S. epidemic threatens, Jenko and Schmidt must find a way to crack the case.

21 Jump Street is a much more complete comedy than the American Pie-meets-Starsky and Hutch previews let on. Read between the lines of the film’s high school social scene and it becomes apparent that the filmmakers intend it as a sly commentary on the douchey attitude of today’s kids. Pace-wise, the gags move at a steady clip, alternately glorifying and deriding the buddy cop genre, and range from moronically funny (a freeway chase involving golf balls and a tennis racquet) to self-effacingly clever (numerous non-explosions). Spoiler alert: Get ready for the greatest cameo in the history of forever.

While fans of the small-screen Jump Street may be disappointed (especially those who can’t divorce themselves from the source material before entering the theater), turning the dramatic show into a comedic feature was really the only way to pull off a premise that is ridiculous on a conceptual level. Think about it: What other way is there to send adult detectives back to high school, other than to be sophomoric? For 21 Jump Street, the pun is very much intended — and appreciated.

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